Heroin is still a popular drug; in fact its popularity has increased since 2007. Admission to substance abuse treatment for heroin is around 14-15 %. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported 153,000 current heroin users in the US. Other estimates give figures as high as 900,000.
What is Heroin?
Just like Opium and Morphine, Heroin is made from the resin of some poppy plants. The milky, sap-like opium is first removed from the pod of the poppy flower. This opium is refined to make morphine and then further refined into different forms of heroin.
It is most often sold as a white or brownish powder that is “cut” (or mixed) with sugars, starch, powdered milk, or quinine. Pure heroin is a white powder with a bitter taste that originates from South America and Southeast Asia, and predominately sold on the east coast of the United States. “Black tar” heroin is a sticky substance much like roofing tar or can be hard like coal and is mostly produced in Mexico and is predominate in areas west of the Mississippi River, in the U.S. Most of the time it is injected into veins, muscles, or under the skin but can also be snorted, smoked or taken orally. It has many different street name; H, Hero, Miss Hero, horse, smack, Jazz, brown sugar, China White.
The Bayer pharmaceutical company of Germany first manufactured Heroin in 1898. It was marketed as a treatment for tuberculosis and a remedy for morphine addiction. From 1914 to 1918, during the First World War, there was an estimated 500,000 heroin addicts in the United States, which at the time was an impressive number.
Users call the immediate effect of the drug “rush”, a euphoric feeling of pleasure. This is followed by drowsiness and pupil contraction. Other effects are:
- Nausea (vomiting during initial testing)
- Trouble concentrating
- A need to urinate more frequently
- A more abundant sweating
- Itchy skin
- Frequent mood swings (long term)
- Menstrual irregularities in women (long term)
- A rapid and irregular pulse
- A slow heart rate
- Respiratory depression
In most cases, dependency occurs very quickly with heroine. Tolerance also occurs more rapidly, which means that the more a person consumes the more is needed to achieve the intensity of the high that was first felt. Physical dependence occurs when the body becomes so accustomed to heroin that it can function normally if the drug is present in the body.
When addicted, heroin can be consumed three to six times daily, sometimes more. The user becomes obsessed with it; lifestyle changes occur the need for the drug is constant and strong, and leads most often to dishonesty and financial disaster. It becomes difficult for them to maintain relationships with people who do not use the drug and can bring about isolation, homelessness or prostitution.
Heroin is often used to deal with a painful reality by numbing the feelings associated with the difficult events. The heroin addict constantly switches between states of euphoria from the drug, which leads to a form of relief, and the need of a hit that causes anxiety, restlessness and many other physical symptoms.
The biggest obsession of a heroin addict is finding the next dose. When in need, they start having physical discomfort that has now worsened since the last heroin use. This is called craving or withdrawal.
These symptoms usually appear four or five hours after the last dose. Here is a list of withdrawal symptoms:
- Severe anxiety
- Runny nose
- Muscle spasms
- Abdominal cramps